World Juniors

Team USA Routs Latvia To Avoid WJC Relegation

Bjugstad (five points), Rau (four points) help power Americans to 12-2 victory.

Tuesday, 01.3.2012 / 5:15 PM ET / World Juniors
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Team USA Routs Latvia To Avoid WJC Relegation
CALGARY -- While there were no grand goal celebrations or high-fives, the U.S. National Junior Team instead took a businesslike approach on Tuesday in scoring a 12-2 victory over Latvia in the opening game of the relegation round at the 2012 World Junior Championship at Scotiabank Saddledome.
The victory officially spares the U.S. from being relegated and earned them a ticket into the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia.
"Once we got up a few goals, it was kind of anti-climactic, but definitely the guys played with a pace that we wanted to and obviously we were able to spread the scoring around," U.S. coach Dean Blais said. "You want to always win your last game and we've got an opportunity to do that against a good Swiss team [on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET]. So we have a chance to gain some respectability out of the whole thing after being out of the medal round."

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U.S. forwards Austin Watson and Nick Bjugstad each had a hat trick and Jason Zucker, J.T. Miller, Bill Arnold, Adam Clendening, Kyle Rau and Austin Czarnik all had one apiece as the U.S. scored a dozen goals on 58 shots.
"The [Brandon] Saad, Watson and Bjugstad line were good from the drop of the puck until the end of the game," Blais said. "They complemented each other; it's just too bad we didn't get that chemistry going a little bit earlier in the tournament. But that was definitely the best line on the ice."
Watson, who was named Team USA's player of the game, finished the contest with a team-high 7 points, including 4 assists. Bjugstad produced 5 points. Brandon Saad chipped in with 4 assists for the Americans.
"It was nice playing with Austin Watson and Brandon Saad … they are two good players who get you the puck," Bjugstad told "Obviously, it was a little too late to show up offensively, I guess. I would have liked to have done that the past three or four games, but it's good to get a win like this."
Watson's 7-point night equaled the U.S. record for most points in a WJC game. Ted Drury (2 goals, 5 assists) and Doug Weight (1 goal, 6 assists) each connected for 7 points in a 19-1 triumph over Norway back in 1991.
"I didn't know that it was a record, but it's an honor to be mentioned with those players," Watson said.
Watson was then asked if he was thinking about gunning for Yevgeni Kuznetsov's tournament-high 9-point total for the Russians against Latvia in a 14-0 victory last Thursday. Kuznetsov finished with 3 goals and 6 assists in the triumph.
"We'd seen that he had 9 points, but going into this game, that wasn't on any of our minds," Watson said. "It wasn't a competition to get the most points out there. We all just wanted to play to the best of our ability and have a good solid team game."
U.S. goalie Jack Campbell, who made 27 saves in recording his second victory of the tournament, is currently tied with Al Montoya (2004, 2005) for most victories by a U.S. goalie at the WJC. His victory over Latvia improved his three-year WJC mark to 7-2-1-3 (W-OTW-OTL-L) in 13 appearances.
"I watched Jack win a gold medal on TV a couple years ago and I looked up to him," Bjugstad said. "Now I'm playing with him and it's an honor. He's a great player and he's probably one of the best goalies to come out of the USA program, so it's definitely a good honor for him."
Watson, a first-round draft pick (No. 18) of the Nashville Predators in 2010, notched a natural hat trick in the opening 16:17 of the first before Zucker, the U.S. captain, extended the lead to 4-0 with a shorthanded goal at 18:47. Bjugstad, a first-round pick (No. 19) of the Florida Panthers in 2010, notched his hat trick in the second when the U.S. scored seven times to open an 11-1 advantage.
"We want to be remembered as a hard working team," Bjugstad said. "We worked hard but feel as though we just didn't get the bounces we really needed to win the tournament. I felt like we really wanted [a medal], but it didn't go our way."
Latvia ended the shutout bid when 2012 draft eligible sniper Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League beat Campbell on the short side off a shot low in the left circle. Latvia's second goal came midway through the third when Teodors Blugers scored from a sharp angle to Campbell's left.
This year, the 10th-place team from the WJC will be relegated to Division I in 2013 and will be replaced by Germany, winner of the Division 1 crown earlier last month. Prior to Tuesday's matchup, the U.S. and Latvia had only met once before in WJC play -- a 12-1 victory by the Americans on Dec. 29, 2009, in Saskatoon, Sask.

Author: Mike G. Morreale | Staff Writer




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
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